To the former athlete,
You may have made the decision that it was time to move on, or maybe you got cut at tryouts. For whatever reason, you now find yourself without the sport that you have loved for years. Maybe you have identified as a volleyball player for the past eight years, or maybe you have been a gymnast or a swimmer since you learned to walk. It might be a part of your identity that is now missing, and it is a hard transition to go from athlete to NARP (non-athletic real person), but it’s going to be ok in the end.
Be thankful for the time you had. There have been many seasons, whether with high school teams, club teams, or maybe you were fortunate enough to be able to play in college. You have had many teammates who supported you and coaches who pushed you to be better. Be thankful for the person that your sport and your teams have made you. Be thankful for your body that supported you through conditioning and tournaments, a body that allowed you to play your sport. You’ve had bruises and injuries, but you were able to push through and recover to return to the gym.
It’s OK to miss it. I made the choice to stop playing volleyball after my freshman year in college. After three years, I still miss it. I miss the team bonding we had on bus trips to away matches, and I miss the feeling of defeating the number one seeded team in our conference. I miss the pain of conditioning, knowing that it will be worth it in the end. I miss my coaches yelling at the team, knowing that we were more than what we showed. I miss the excitement and nervousness before a big match. I even miss making mistakes—because it meant that I was on the court. This sport has been a part of you for years, and it is more than acceptable to mourn that loss.
At the same time, maybe you are relieved. You don’t have to give up every weekend for matches and you have time to study for classes now. Maybe you are relieved that you don’t have to put your body through more pain, just for a game. It’s ok to be relieved—and maybe even happy—that you don’t have to play anymore.
You can still stay connected with your old team. You can still go to games and support your friends. You can still join them for lunch and you can still go out to them. Teammates don’t abandon their teammates. Maybe you even want to join an intramural team in your sports keep a part of your sport in your heart. But you will also have new opportunities. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook, or maybe even try club or intramural sports. Now that you are not committed to 10+ hours in the gym every week, you will have time to figure out who you are as a person. Maybe you want to explore theater or student government or learn how to paint. You now have the time to do this.
A former athlete